B.C. conservation officer who saved bear cubs looks to 'hold govt. accountable' in new non-profit role | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. conservation officer who saved bear cubs looks to 'hold govt. accountable' in new non-profit role

Pacific Wild announced that former B.C. Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant has joined its ranks.
September 23, 2019 - 7:00 AM

Despite the potential repercussions, when former B.C. Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant was ordered to euthanize two bear cubs in 2015, he said no.

While that wasn’t the deciding factor in his recent move to the non-profit wildlife conservation organization Pacific Wild, Casavant said it is one example outlining shortcomings in government policy. Now, as Pacific Wild’s conservation policy analyst, Casavant said he feels a sense of freedom and a better ability to hold governments accountable.

“In my years of experience the government is one of the major contributors to environmental non-compliance,” Casavant told iNFOnews. “In the absence of public servants exercising their institutional knowledge and positions of power for the greater good, not only is our environment put at further risk but the public trust placed in government to protect our environment is further eroded. My move to the non-profit sector is about holding our governments accountable.”

Casavant, a Canadian Forces veteran who trained police forces abroad before an honourable release, garnered national attention when he declined an order by a commanding officer to euthanize two bear cubs. Instead, Casavant brought the cubs to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre near Nanaimo. Jordan and Athena, the cubs, were released back into the wild in 2016.

Bryce Casavant
Bryce Casavant

Several years of legal battles ensued after Casavant was suspended with pay, transferred out of the B.C. Conservation Service and into another position with the Ministry of Forests, Land, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. In an Aug. 23, 2019 decision, Justice Heather McNaughton dismissed his latest review attempt.

“It’s not the straw that broke the camel's back, but it’s a contributing factor,” Casavant said. “The animal side out of the equation, there’s still some very serious questions on the legal side of it.”

Casavant said that wasn’t the only policy issue that arose in his government career. On a separate occasion, the details of which are not yet public, Casavant said he was “leading a very complex investigation” and was told to cease his efforts due to potential collateral damage – a decision with which he did not agree.

“Provincially, that was a catalyst for sure to start questioning what is going on,” he said.

Ian McAllister, Pacific Wild executive director, said he doesn’t agree with the image that has been cast of Casavant.

“The B.C. government has continually framed Bryce as controversial for his work to stand up for enforcing existing laws and regulations,” said McAllister. “But we don’t believe standing up for the rule of law and ensuring it is enforced should ever be considered controversial.

Tammy Knowles of Wildlife Defence League said Casavant’s appointment to Pacific Wild is a “game-changer.”

“The provincial and federal governments lack information transparency, hindering environmental progress in B.C.,” Knowles said. “They also continue to put environmentally destructive projects ahead of the needs of the environment."

Founded in 2008 by McAllister, Pacific Wild seeks to protect wildlife and their habitat in B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest throughout communications, wildlife monitoring and other initiatives. According to Pacific Wild, the province currently has 1,800 species at risk.

Casavant, NDP candidate for the Oak Bay-Gordon Head riding in the 2017 provincial election, said he is still getting his feet wet on the non-profit side of environmental work but believes “the future is bright."

“It’s difficult to really delve into some of these matters as a public servant when you’re researching your employer,” Casavant chuckled. “What I’m finding now (working for a non-governmental organization) is there is more freedom to really grapple with those questions." 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Parker Crook or call (250) 864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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